Internet users in Cuba — the few who have access to the web, that is — can now download Google’s popular browser Chrome.
Google announced that it made Chrome available in Cuba on Wednesday, blaming the delay on U.S. export controls and sanctions against the communist country.
The Cuban government claims 25% of its citizens have access to the Internet, but that’s assuming people that can go to a government-controlled facility. The more realistic number is 5%, according to online freedom watchdog Freedom House.
“These trade restrictions are always evolving, and over time, we’ve been working to figure out how to make more tools available in sanctioned countries,” wrote Pedro Less Andrade, Google’s director of government affairs and public policy for Latin America.
Experts were quick to point out that Google could have made Chrome available a long time ago.
In 2010, the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the agency in charge of regulating American economic sanctions against other countries, authorized U.S. companies to export some free Internet services, including web browsing software.
“The only reason Chrome was not currently accessible in Cuba was because of Google’s own internal decision,” Mauricio Claver-Carone, the executive director of the pro-human rights and democracy organization Cuba Democracy Advocates, wrote in a blog post reacting to Google’s announcement. “Why it took Google four years to discover this general license? God knows.”
Ric Herrero, the director of the advocacy group CubaNow, praised Google’s decision, but criticized American policy toward the country.
“Even now, many Internet services remain unavailable not just because of the Cuban regime’s obstruction, but also our own restrictions. That doesn’t help move Cuba toward a freer and more open society, it makes it harder,” he said in a statement.
This move can be seen as part of Google’s goal of improving Internet access in Cuba. Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, and Jared Cohen, the director of Google Ideas, reportedly visited Cuba in late June to meet with officials and those who work in the tech industry.
Mashable has reached out to Google for comment and we will update this story when we hear back.